South Shields launched a second half fightback as they kept their unbeaten pre-season record intact with a 2-2 draw at Blyth Spartans on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves two goals down at half-time before a dramatic improvement after the break.
Eight changes were made during the interval by joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, and the reaction was immediate, with Shields pulling one goal back through a trialist.
Carl Finnigan netted a penalty to equalise late on as the Mariners claimed a draw with their National League North opponents.
Against a full-strength Blyth side – who operate two leagues higher – Shields went into the game without the likes of Julio Arca, Liam Connell, Robert Briggs and Matty Pattison.
They started slowly, with Spartans having a number of half-chances in the opening exchanges.
Dan Maguire hit a decent opportunity wide and Nathan Buddle also missed a good chance for the hosts as he was unable to get enough on a header in front of goal.
The breakthrough Blyth had been threatening duly arrived in the 19th minute as a through ball split the Shields defence and let Maguire in on goal.
The deadly marksman made no mistake as he rolled the ball past the Mariners’ trialist goalkeeper.
Things did not get much better for Shields in the rest of the first half as they failed to test Shaun MacDonald in the Spartans goal.
A dangerous strike from distance by Blyth forward Robbie Dale took a deflection before going narrowly wide, while a Dale Hopson free-kick caused problems before being scrambled to safety.
Spartans doubled their advantage eight minutes before half-time when Maguire was again slipped through on goal, and he drove the ball low across the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
It looked like a tall order for Shields to find a way back into the game, but they were much-improved after the introduction of Finnigan, Barrie Smith, Jordan Blinco, Anthony Callaghan and four trialists.
They put the hosts under pressure before pulling a goal back just before the hour mark when Blinco’s pass was expertly fired into the bottom corner by a trialist.
Shields had momentum for the first time in the game, with Finnigan pulling the strings.
He set Blinco through on goal soon after, but MacDonald denied him.
Blyth still had chances, and hit the post when a free-kick was flicked on, but Shields were awarded a penalty for handball with 13 minutes left.
Finnigan made no mistake as he rattled the ball into the bottom corner to continue his fine pre-season form.
Jarrett Rivers could have won it for Blyth in stoppage time, but blazed over from close range as Shields returned to South Tyneside with a draw.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist (Trialist 46), Baxter (Nicholson 78), Lough, Storey (Trialist 46), Morse (Callaghan 46), Shaw (Morse 78), Nicholson (Smith 46), Stephenson (Trialist 46), Cogdon (Trialist 46), Richardson (Finnigan 46), Sullivan (Blinco 46).
Goals: Trialist (59), Finnigan (pen 77).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
SSFC will be at the heart of a family fun day in Jarrow on Sunday.
The ‘Champions Funday’ is taking place at Drewetts Park, which sits between Bede’s World and St Paul’s Church off Church Bank, Jarrow, between 11am and 5pm.
The event has been organised between SSFC and club sponsor The Dunes Adventure Island, with a host of activities and entertainment lined up.
SSFC supporters will get the opportunity to have their 2017-18 home kit signed by the players, and see the trophies the Mariners won last season.
There will also be fairground rides, food, music, drinks and football, including a coaching session with SSFC players Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan.
The fun day will be on between 11am and 5pm, with a DJ to play music throughout the day and plenty more activities to be held, including a beat the goalie competition.
Wristbands, giving children unlimited access to the rides, inflatables and coaching session, are available in advance for £8 from the Dunes Adventure Island and Mariners Park. They’re on sale now, and parents can attend for free.
Should your child wish to take part in the coaching course, there is no extra cost, but please register their names at Mariners Park so the club is aware of the numbers. Places are filling fast, so please don’t delay.
Tickets are still available for the annual South Shields FC Party on the Tyne.
The event, which is always seen as a great way to celebrate the start of a new season, is being held on Saturday, August 5.
Boarding starts at 6.30pm for a prompt 7pm departure – meaning there should be plenty of time for supporters to get back from the 1pm kick-off at Whitby Town.
Firstly, the ferry will go downstream around the harbour, and then up to the Newcastle and Gateshead Millennium Bridge, before returning to South Shields for around 10.30pm.
There will be a DJ, food and a licensed bar, and this is always a great event to kick-off the new season. Members of the Mariners’ first-team squad will be on board.
It has been organised this year by the SSFC Members’ Club, but is open for all supporters to buy tickets, costing £15.
We really hope you can make it. Contact 07486 638680 for tickets.